Deep down, both the Celtics and the Lakers still harbor NBA championship dreams. It's only natural for players who have been there before to believe they can string together a few flashes of brilliance and make another run for a ring in June.
Both teams have issues they need to overcome first, and while some of the problems are related, others are unique. Right now, neither team is the favorite is its conference.
The Celtics' shortcomings are by now well-documented. They are still one of the best defensive teams around, holding opponents to just 89.7 points per game, but they are also challenged offensively, where they barely crack 90 points per game.
Just how long the Celtics can maintain their defensive strength is in question as well, as injury and illness has sidelined Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox indefinitiely. Unless Greg Stiemsma can cut down on his foul-prone ways and find a way to stay on the court, Kevin Garnett may find himself playing even more minutes that he has recently.
The Lakers also cannot seem to score, which is odd for a team with the league's leading scorer. Despite Kobe Bryant's 28.9 points per game average, the Lakers often go stagnant on offense with Bryant dominating the ball and taking wild shots.
If any teams have proved that they can work their way through their problems, it's these two. A little more than 20 regular-season games remain for them to figure it out.